• picture
  • picture
PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Emerging Science Note/Brain Boost

Air Date: Week of November 5, 2004

stream/download this segment as an MP3 file

Living on Earth’s Jennifer Chu reports that a little shock to the brain could improve your verbal skills.

Transcript

CURWOOD: Just ahead: how one woman changed the face of Africa, starting with a few seedlings. First, this Note on Emerging Science from Jennifer Chu.

[SCIENCE NOTE THEME]

CHU: Think fast - talk faster.

A recent experiment shows that applying a small electrical current to the front of your head for 20 minutes can give your brain the jolt it needs to juice up your verbal skills.

This may be especially good news for people who suffer from frontal temporal dementia, a brain condition that affects speech.

In the experiment conducted by researchers at the U.S. National Institutes of Heath, volunteers were hooked up to a set of scalp electrodes. Researchers administered an imperceptible dose of electricity to some, while the control group received none. The volunteers were then asked to list as many words as they could which began with a particular letter.

The results: those who had received a current performed significantly better on the verbal test—naming nearly 20 percent more words—than the control group.

While researchers can’t fully explain the effect, they speculate that electrical current stimulates cells in the prefrontal cortex, which is the area of the brain responsible for generating words.

After the current passes through this region, brain cells are able to fire off signals more rapidly, thus increasing verbal ability. Scientists hope they’ll eventually be able to use electrode therapy—which they say is harmless—in combination with drugs as a treatment for dementia. So far, the only side effect appears to be an itchy scalp. That’s this week’s Note on Emerging Science. I’m Jennifer Chu.

CURWOOD: And you’re listening to NPR’s Living on Earth.

ANNOUNCER: Support for NPR comes from NPR stations, and: Ford, maker of the Escape Hybrid, a full hybrid S-U-V able to run on electric power alone at certain speeds. Ford vehicles dot com back slash environment; The Noyce Foundation, dedicated to improving Math and Science instruction from kindergarten through grade 12; The Annenberg Fund for excellence in communications and education; and, The Kellogg Foundation, helping people help themselves by investing in individuals, their families, and their communities. On the web at w-k-k-f dot org. This is NPR -- National Public Radio.

[MUSIC: Ennio Morricone "Miserere" ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK FROM THE MOTION PICTURE THE MISSION (Virgin – 1986)]

 

 

Living on Earth wants to hear from you!

P.O. Box 990007
Prudential Station
Boston, MA, USA 02199
Telephone: 1-617-287-4121
E-mail: comments@loe.org

Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.

Newsletter
Living on Earth offers a weekly delivery of the show's rundown to your mailbox. Sign up for our newsletter today!

Major funding for Living on Earth is provided by the National Science Foundation.

Committed to healthy food, healthy people, a healthy planet, and healthy business.

Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live.

Kendeda Fund, furthering the values that contribute to a healthy planet.

The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.

Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary hummingbird photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.